We live in a free country, but I am often astounded at how differently people view that ideal. For instance, a person who is pro-life and violently anti-abortion might also be against taking a vaccine or wearing a mask to protect others, declaring “my body, my choice” while doing so, and completely missing the irony of such a statement. Protecting the unborn is, apparently, more important than protecting those around them who are actually existing outside the womb.
This has never been more true than it is now, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic and the way it has reshaped the world over the past 20-plus months. Thanks to social media, people can not only declare their feelings to the masses, they can download enormous amounts of information to back up their beliefs, regardless of whether or not that information is actually factual. If it supports their preconceived notions or beliefs, then that’s good enough, right?
Never mind that these decisions often affect many others. Especially when it comes to vaccinations. I understand that there are millions of people who are reluctant to take the Covid vaccine — full disclosure, I am not only fully vaxxed, I am getting my booster this weekend — and it frustrates me that so many of them haven’t taken the vaccine for what are clearly the wrong reasons. It’s not just that they somehow believe that Dr. Anthony Fauci or their doctors or someone sinister is making millions off the vaccines — Spoiler Alert! They’re not — or that they are suspect of putting the vaccines into their body, despite the fact that they have almost all been vaccinated as children. This is, after all, why I would imagine no one reading this suffered from polio as a child, nor developed whooping cough or diphtheria.
It’s that certain powers-that-be have made it a political choice, which is genuinely stupid. Putting people in harm’s way to make some kind of political point doesn’t make any sense to me, as it hurts one’s constituents most of all.
But the politics of it is not why I’m here this week. It’s because there are people in our industry who are reluctant to get themselves vaccinated, even if it means putting colleagues, coworkers, and contemporaries in danger. That, I cannot abide.
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you can’t either.
It’s for this reason that I am fully in favor of vaccine mandates in just about every forum, but especially on a set. And if there’s a good reason not to be vaccinated — medical issues and such, or even just a refusal to have one — then regular testing works fine, too. Whatever it takes to ensure everyone’s safety. Just as I discussed last week, that’s the most important thing.
Which brings me to Letitia Wright and the hijacking of Black Panther 2, as well as a couple other things, which all tie together.
There were reports last year that Wright was spreading anti-vax propaganda on set, which she and her people vigorously denied. What is fairly clear, however, is that she is not a fan of the idea, and it does not appear that she has partaken of the jabs at all. Now, under normal circumstances, this is her right, and that’s fine. But she also suffered an injury in August while shooting the movie, and went home to London to recuperate as the production continued without her.
Well, now, Director Ryan Coogler has exhausted the shots he can do without her presence, which means that the production has shut down until January. That, also, is no big deal, and happens all the time when an actor’s injury must be given time to heal. For further examples, see: Ford, Harrison.
Here’s the tricky part: if she’s still not vaccinated by the time they’re ready to kick things back into gear, she’s not getting back into the country. Full stop. At that juncture, it becomes a major issue which affects a whole lot of people, as well as a company with a couple hundred million dollars invested in the project.
If and when that occurs, what is a person’s responsibility? Are they obligated to get a vaccination they might not want to keep working and make sure that the project — for which, by the way, she is being paid handsomely — does not suffer? Or must her wishes and rights be respected at the cost of all else?
To me, it’s not about rights. It’s about what’s right. If you don’t want to get vaccinated, that’s up to you, but you lose the choice when you sign on to a project like this where you have certain responsibilities. Don’t like it? Don’t take the job. The actress is not surrendering her rights, just as so many people across the country and the world have not by being mandated to get jabbed so they can keep working. That choice is hers, but when she signs a contract and jumps aboard this train, she gives up the privilege to make certain decisions in exchange for employment and financial remuneration.
I heard that an online petition was circulated among fans who wanted her replaced if she doesn’t get vaccinated. I think that’s a bit silly, but it does open the door to people who want to cry “cancel culture.” This has become a pretty big pet peeve of mine, because it’s clearer and clearer with every example that people who utter the phrase are really just upset because they want to say and do whatever they want without having to pay the consequences.
And that’s the big distinction here: being forced to pay the consequences for your actions is not being canceled. It’s being held to account. Enormous difference. Gina Carano was fired off The Mandalorian last year after she compared being a conservative today to being a Jew in 1930s Germany. You don’t have to be Jewish — more full disclosure: I am — to find that both absurd and horribly offensive, but that didn’t stop her from crying “Cancel culture!” when Disney told her that her services would no longer be required. She wasn’t alone, either, as plenty of sympathetic people posted nonsense like, “I stand with Gina Carano” on their social media, taking a ridiculous stand against, what, owning your behavior?
It’s nonsense, because she wasn’t canceled, she was fired for doing something stupid, and felt that she paid too steep a price. But, see, the thing about that is that if you’re working for a company that has a public face, it’s sort of up to them what price you pay for acting up in their employ. It just so happens that the company that fired Carano also employs Wright, which leads me to believe that some serious arm twisting is going to occur between now and New Year’s Day.
The recent kerfuffle with Aaron Rodgers is in the same vein, even if it’s slightly different. He, also, has the right to not get vaccinated, but being cute about it and lying to people is not okay. He also cried “cancel culture!” to anyone who would listen, and lamented that he lost an endorsement deal with Prevea Health, which obviously was skittish about being associated with someone who was as cavalier about the situation as Rodgers was. It being, y’know, a health care company, and all.
But, again, no one has canceled Aaron Rodgers. He lost a few bucks, and I’m betting a fair number of fans, but all he’s done is be held responsible for his behavior.
It’s a lesson most of us learn very early, and it appears to be one Letitia Wright is in the process of grasping. Let’s see how studious a woman she is.
Neil Turitz is a journalist, essayist, author, and filmmaker who has worked in and written about Hollywood for nearly 25 years, though he has never lived there. These days, he splits his time between New York City and the Berkshires. He’s not on Twitter, but you can find him on Instagram @6wordreviews.
You can read a new installation of The Accidental Turitz every Wednesday, and all previous columns can be found here.
All pictures courtesy of the respective copyright owners.